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2001-07-14
Kent, OH. Developer Runs Into a Ruckus

Developers from Dallas are used to thinking big, but a Dallas-based developer has run into big problems in the small Ohio town of Kent. A resident's group called the Kent Citizens for Responsible Development has taken the Texas-based Tara Group to task for trying force a 375,000 s.f. shopping center onto land at the edge of town. Tara is the 3rd developer to ply this parcel, with Developer's Diversified Realty (DDR) as a former owner. But it seems the "mall in a meadow" can't succeed without a healthy infusion of local tax subsidies. The City has offered to provide $3.5 million in a "tax increment financing" (TIF) scheme that would use property taxes paid by the project to pay for infrastructure work on roads, water and sewer. Instead of the taxes paid going into the city treasury to pay for schools, police or fire, the TIF taxes would literally help pave a road to the mall, plus hook Tara up to water and sewer. Local residents oppose this form of corporate welfare. Doug Shaw, a professor at the University of Akron, says the mall is a net loser for the city anyway. Shaw estimates that the project will bring in $121,000 a near in revenues, but cost the city $132,000 in city services. "What the city is expecting is a great burst of revenue," Shaw told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "greater than its expenses.That's not likely to develop." The TIF plan apparently ignores a 1990 voter referendum in Kent that prohibited the use of tax financing for this parcel, and residents warn that things could get messy if the 7 member City Council votes on July 18th. to ignore the vote of the people on this matter. Meanwhile, the developer told a local reporter that he's built 18 malls in his career and has "never encountered such a ruckus."

What you can do: People in Ohio should be raising a ruckus over the saturation of retail stores in their communities. The Kent CRD has referred City Council members to a lengthy retail analysis produced for the region less than a year ago, which warns of the costs of overdeveloping retail facilities (see newsflash entry below from Cuyahoga county). Kent residents vow they will drag the "University Town Center", as the Tara project is named, to court if need be. This mall is not university sponsored, and is nowhere near the town center, so the Tara Group could at least have come up with an appropriate name for their meadow mall. "The Ruckus Power Center" comes immediately to mind. For contacts with the Kent Citizens for Responsible Developmenet, contact info@sprawl-busters.com.










 
 
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